Years of fruitless efforts to end Syria's war

2018-04-04 17:14
A Turkish-backed Syrian rebel gestures as they gather in the city of Afrin in northern Syria. Turkish forces and their rebel allies are in control of the Kurdish-majority city of Afrin in northwestern Syria. (Bulent Kilic, AFP)

A Turkish-backed Syrian rebel gestures as they gather in the city of Afrin in northern Syria. Turkish forces and their rebel allies are in control of the Kurdish-majority city of Afrin in northwestern Syria. (Bulent Kilic, AFP)

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Ankara – Since the start of Syria's war in 2011, numerous efforts to halt the conflict through diplomacy have failed.

As the leaders of Iran, Russia and Turkey – which have become powerbrokers in the conflict – meet on Syria on Wednesday, here is an overview of previous peace efforts.

'Arab solutions' rejected

In January 2012 leading Arab diplomats adopt a plan that would transfer power from Syria's President Bashar al-Assad to a coalition cabinet.

But the Damascus government rejects the proposal, declaring "an end of Arab solutions", and vows to crush the rebels.

Geneva I and II

In June 2012 global powers meeting in Geneva draw up a plan that would install a transition government but does not spell out what would happen to Assad.

Among those involved are the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States – plus the Arab League, Turkey and the European Union.

They differ over what the plan really means, however, with the United States saying it paves the way to a "post-Assad" period.

China and Russia, allies of Assad, insist it is up to Syrians to decide their future.

In January 2014 the first talks between Syrian opposition groups and the government are held in Geneva under the auspices of Russia and the United States.

On February 15, after a second fruitless session, UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi calls an end to the talks and resigns.

Vienna plan

In September 2015 Russia lends its military backing to Assad's forces, which have been struggling against Gulf- and Western-backed rebels. It is a game-changer for the regime.

In November 2015 the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) is set up in Vienna, grouping 17 world or regional powers and multilateral organisations, including for the first time Iran.

It draws up a transition outline but the question of Assad's future is still not resolved.

In December the UN Security Council unanimously endorses the Vienna peace process.

Nine rounds at UN

In early 2016 three rounds of UN-supervised indirect negotiations are held in Geneva between regime and opposition groups. The parties do not talk face to face.

The negotiations stall over arrangements for a transition and run up against violations of a ceasefire.

In March, May and July 2017 there are four more rounds of indirect talks without result.

An eighth round of talks in Geneva in December fails to get the different parties even to talk to each other. UN envoy Staffan de Mistura blames in particular the government delegation's apparent lack of interest.

In January 2018 a ninth round is wrapped up without result in Vienna, having been relocated from Geneva for logistical reasons.

Russia takes control

In late 2016 regime-allies Russia and Iran and rebel-backer Turkey take over the peace process, sidelining the United States. They impose a ceasefire between army and rebels.

In January 2017 they organise talks in Astana, Kazakhstan, between representatives of the regime and a rebel delegation.

They then hold seven rounds of negotiations, reaching an accord on the setting up of four "de-escalation" zones in Syria, leading to a decrease in violence only in certain areas.

In late January 2018 a peace congress is called by Russia in its Black Sea resort of Sochi, backed by Ankara and Tehran. It fails due to the absence of the main opposition groups and Kurds.

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